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At times I wasn't sure if this was Romeo and Juliet
or Dudley Do-Right and Juliet. Sometimes Romeo seemed
wooden, sometimes awkward, sometimes trying woodenly
to be awkward. He seemed much older than Juliet, too,
which would be interesting if it were part of the play
but it isn't.
Much more affecting were Juliet herself, the Nurse, and old Capulet. Some of the staging was notably well handled, including the whole Capulet ballroom scene. I couldn't help comparing Mercutio and Friar Laurence unfavorably with their Zeffirelli counterparts.
It was nice to get more of the dialogue than some other film versions preserve, but on the other hand some of the cuts took away familiar lines and such cuts are always jarring.
I was in high school when this was first broadcast on public television. I liked it better than what was then the latest movie version, because the movie cut out too many lines. I'll admit that Alan Rickman made an excellent Tybalt, but that's not the only memorable performance in that production. Michael Hordern was fine as Capulet. The big surprise for me was Celia Johnson as Juliet's nurse. She was such a wonderful actress that it more than made up for the fact that she was way too old for the part. (It was years later, after her death, I believe, that I saw her in her most famous role in the David Lean movie "Brief Encounter".) It's been over twenty years since I've seen that TV production and I don't think I'll ever forget it.
Celia Johnson is good as the Nurse. Michael Hordern is good as Capulet,
though it's his usual neighing and whinnying and not a patch on his
King Lear. John O'Conor reads the verse well as Friar Laurence though
he never takes it anywhere. Alan Rickman is good as Tybalt, in the
first of his "yuk" roles that would make him famous. Christopher
Strauli's Benvolio is sympathetic.
The sets are pretty, if not stunning as in some of the other BBC Shakespeare's.
And that's it. The rest is weak to dreadful. Rebecca Saire turned 15 during production, and hasn't a clue about how to act Juliet - she opens her eyes real wide and whines every line in exactly the same way. Patrick Ryecart is poorly matched to her, and his self-regard is inexplicable. The Balcony Scene flows smoothly and uneventfully with zero emotional or erotic impact. Their deaths come as a relief. If I had a dagger, I would have offered it to them hours earlier.
Anthony Andrews is unspeakable as Mercutio, a great shock if you remember his fine work in "Brideshead Revisited." He breaks the mirror of Shakespeare's verse into a thousand shards of two or three words each, and then shouts the fragments in as disconnected and unintelligible manner as possible. In this production, Queen Mab abdicates. Awful.
The director, Alvin Rakoff, shows only an intermittent gift of putting the camera where it will show us what we want to see. The opening brawl is notably incoherent. However there is humor when in a later fight, Romeo apparently knees Tybalt right in the cobblers. Tybalt then grabs the offended region. However did that get through?
R&J is a long play. This version is not recommended for classroom use, or much else.
Everybody knows the story of William Shakespeare's tragic love affair, Romeo and Juliet. They are young Verona teenagers who fall in love from warring families. The cast is wonderful. Rebecca Saire and Patrick Ryecart are perfectly cast as Juliet and Romeo. Dame Celia Johnson was wonderful as the Nurse. Alan Rickman was great as Tybalt. Sir Michael Hordern has a small role as Lord Capulet. Sir John Gielgud has even a smaller role as the chorus. This is fine and faithful version able to be shown to high school students studying this play as part of the curriculum. The art direction and female costumes are fine. Verona comes alive well. My biggest problem with the male costumes is the tights. The fight sequences look more like the ballet than fights. Maybe it was the style of the times.
While not as atrocious as others have described it, this TV version of
Romeo and Juliet leaves much to be desired. That the camera-work is
uninspired and the sets are stage-bound does not factor in here, seeing
as this is no big budget extravaganza (a la the 1936, 1968, and 1996
adaptations). No, what's lacking are riveting performances, primarily
from the lovers themselves.
Patrick Ryecart may be the most passionless Romeo I have ever seen. That he is uncomfortably older than his adolescent leading lady by about a decade is the least of his problems. He is the definition of bland, almost sleepwalking through his scenes, only coming alive during the part where he kills Tybalt in a fit of rage. Rebbecca Saire does better as Juliet, but not by much. Though she is the closest in age to her character than any other screen/TV actress I've ever seen (Saire was 14 at the time of filming, only a year older than Juliet is in the play), her portrayal of the character is too subdued and lacking in sexuality.
Luckily, most of the supporting cast is passable, if not great. There are only two standouts in the line-up: Anthony Andrews is an entertaining Mercutio and a young Alan Rickman makes for a wonderfully loathsome Tybalt.
Honestly, this is probably my least favorite R&J screen adaptation thus far. While not a painful experience, you'd be better served with the 1968 film. Though it does cut some of the text, it's prettier to look at and features more poignant, passionate performances than this lifeless TV movie.
This uneven production includes more of the text than do most
productions, but it still omits many lines. Some of the omissions are
well-judged abridgments of the tiresome banter between Romeo and his
friends or between the servants and the musicians. Other deletions are
much more dubious, as we're deprived of some great poetic lines. Some
of the excisions in III.i (along with the staging of the sword fights
in that scene) have the effect of presenting Tybalt as a less bellicose
character than the full text suggests.
The best performances are those of Michael Hordern (Capulet), Celia Johnson (Nurse), Anthony Andrews (Mercutio), Alan Rickman (Tybalt), and Joseph O'Conor (Friar Laurence). None of those performances is impeccable, but each of them is at a high level.
Rebecca Saire (Juliet) is not up to the demands of her role in some of the crucial scenes in the first half of the play, but she improves considerably after a mediocre rendering of the "Gallop apace" soliloquy. Patrick Ryecart (Romeo) is excellent in the bedroom scene, but his performance otherwise ranges from poor in the early parts of the play to mediocre in the later parts. Ryecart too often substitutes expressionless reciting for acting. In the balcony scene he is unintentionally hilarious, as he keeps crashing to the ground after ascending a wall. Moreover, whereas Saire's physical appearance is just right for Juliet, Ryecart's physical appearance is unlikely to set aflutter the heart of any fourteen-year-old girl.
The sword fights are staged more impressively than in any of the other BBC Shakespeare productions, and the sets are generally well crafted. This production on the whole is pretty good, but it could have been excellent if the eponymous characters had been better portrayed.
I have noted with some surprise the extremely negative criticism of
many viewers who have commented on this version of Shakespeare's'
famous play, particularly with regard to Patrick Ryecart's portrayal of
Romeo. I can see how his performance could be considered wooden but in
my opinion he has managed, with some success, to bring about a much
more naturalistic depiction of the character.
Certainly, there are times when he should have perhaps brought out more emotion in his performance (such as the ballroom scene) but, for the most part, his understated portrayal works. His Romeo is a complex character whose extreme emotional state is always writhing beneath the surface and bubbles up beautifully when the occasion demands it. Whether it be expressions of rage or love, Ryecart manages to get it right what is perhaps the most faithful film version of this classic tragedy.
Rebecca Saire, who for once has been well cast in a BBC production in terms of her character's age, performed well as Juliet. Sweet yet sensitive, and deeply in love : a classic portrayal in a classical reading of Shakespeare.
In terms of the other memorable cast members, Alan Rickman did a good (but not a great job) as Tybalt, and I think that certain other reviewers have overpraised his performance due simply to his later celebrity. There is more to the character than his being simply broody (something which seems to be Rickman's essential reading of every role he plays). Anthony Andrews was as crazy and eccentric as I imagine Mercutio being; and if there ever was a faithful portrayal of an Elizabethan father, Michael Hordern pulled it off with gusto. Celia Johnson was great as a well-meaning and loving yet overly fussy Nurse.
I enjoyed this production as a faithful version of the text without the overly dramatic nature of later film versions (particularly Luhrmann's). I feel that the director has come as close as possible to a reading that Shakespeare would recognise. An admirable recreation of a beloved classic as ever there was one!
Rebecca Saire and Patrick Ryecart and quite interesting as the leads.
Saire gives a very good interpretation of Juliet and owns her scenes.
She is beautiful, and her costumes are affective. Wearing clothing
patterned after authentic period costumes adds a lot. She looks a
little like Elsa Lanchester in "Bride of Frankenstein" in the heavy
full-length dress of the day. Ryecart uses a more contemporary style,
along the lines of England in the era of the Beatles and the Stones
while remaining intellectually honest. It is unusual now to have a
Romeo not be a teen-dream. Saire and Ryecart have some, not a lot of,
chemistry. What the actors accomplish is to bring to the fore some of
the questions in the plot. Why do they think springing their marriage
on their families in the middle of a vendetta will not be received with
horror? Or why doesn't Friar Lawrence see the likely outcome? They try
to out-Machiavellian the rulers of a renaissance Italian city-state and
the outcome is also predicable. The play is not the romantic tragedy it
is reputed to be.
Perhaps the production values could have been better if it had not been filmed in the style of a 1970s BBC program. Too many crane shots. The sets are variable. Very good background music in the credits and the musicians in the party scene are playing authentic instruments.
This performance is from the first two seasons of BBC Shakespeare and is shows the original purpose which seemed to be to sell the package to school libraries from class discussion. Later they did more original interpretations of the plays and some of the actors in this are in the later plays; Ryecart, Michael Hordern, and Vernon Dobtcheff are the ones I saw.
I am bias as I am Shakespeares biggest fan and not a big critic on the
various performances because I find every adaptation I see I enjoy
because of the variety. Which I think Shakespeare himself would also
enjoy the wide different attempts at his works. Who knows what is the
correct way to performance these classics. I enjoyed seeing Alan
Rickman in hid first TV role. I love the Geilgud voice and his
presence. If you are a true Shakespeare fan leave your eyes open and
your opinions wide as I truly believe the great man himself would do
exactly that 400 years on.
I like all the BBC Shakespeare collection.
Well done the Beeb !
For my first taste of Shakespeare on stage, I cannot believe what these
people did to a perfectly good play.
-Let's start off with the good bit, shall we?-
Alan Rickman is alright, although some of his dialog could have been delivered with more feeling. The rest of the actors needed to pull it together.
Romeo, Romeo, whyfore art thou not dead yet, Romeo? The actor, while not only completely wooden and deadpan, could not read his lines with any gusto at all. He was completely out of focus, had difficulty even looking Juliet in the face, and absolutely NO grace with the lines that he was given. Whoever cast him deserves to be punished. Juliet is almost passable, but she gives no depth to her character,and seems to be completely out of touch with the play. Mercutio was incredibly creepy and completely out of character for the entirety of his dialog. Benvolio was unfeeling and mercilessly choppy with his lines.
I was forced to endure this half-baked production of Romeo and Juliet. The acting was stilted and the costumes were nothing short of distracting. I have seen kindergarten puppet shows with more effort put into them. I only wish that i could give this movie a rating of zero.
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